Monday 14 June 2021
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She Leads: Women in Political Office

In democratic societies, proportional representation is seen as the electoral system most likely to get women elected; this is however dependent on if internal party policy enables    female candidacy.
In countries in which government is treated as a familial heirloom, the President as patriarch, usually fields female candidates that will enact policies that sustain exclusionary policies.
Do women elected on quotas of any type, but especially reserved seats – become second class members of parliament or public office, a valid question, but a question that is never asked to men that have quite literally proven themselves to be incompetent  and have less than favourable public perceptions, yet are still on party lists.
It is important to note that women’s occupation of public office is not the panacea to patriarchy and misogyny, as to be rid of such systems would mean a deliberate political project from patriarchal institutions, similarly, just because there’s women in close proximity to power/in power does not mean that their/her politics are inherently revolutionary; as evidenced by Former President of Liberia Ellen Johnsons Sirleaf timidity in passing a law outlawing female genital cutting(FGC) for fear of upsetting traditional bases when she was up for re-election in 2011.
She only signed an executive order banning the practice on her last day in office January 2018, and even then the ban was for a year and expired January 2019, the ban still needs to debated and enacted by Liberian lawmakers.
Quotas are meant to bring women’s voices into political systems where they are otherwise excluded, short-cutting a process that can naturally take generations.
Societies or countries most genial to gender quotas and likely to implement them, are those coming out of conflict or instability seeking to have diverse, democratic elections representative of society  or those societies that wish to counter negative perceptions of  conservatism, the latter, if done is  for investment drives as exemplified by Saudi Arabias easing of social restrictions on women, it’s done for public pandering and does not address the root causes for  the societal side-lining of women.
Senior women in political parties identified national liberation movements as being able to liberate society from oppression thus liberating themselves from archaic pecking order systems and so participated wholeheartedly.
As a society, we have however  surpassed the representation matters phase and having a women in the room is no  longer enough, further than that is there a continuance  of the normalisation of  women in public office, in those spaces that they  occupy do they mentor young women from youth leagues ?
Mentorship free from factionalism,  not on condition of when and if the young woman chooses to go off on her own path, she isn’t vilified and demonized as being ungrateful, as evidenced by the scorched earth campaign Helen Zille embarked upon when Lindiwe Mazibuko left the Democratic Alliance (DA) .
Lesotho and Mauritius are the only two countries in Africa whereby girls out graduate boys at primary, the former in high as well as tertiary level.
In Lesotho more women than men are employed in the formal economy, these positive dynamics are not reflected in parliamentary make up.
Substantive representation represents the form and content of policy making, the cross pollination between civil society and women parliamentarians is more likely to produce lasting policy changes.
As a society, we have surpassed the representation matters phase and having a woman in the room is no longer enough, there are women that have been in political office for twenty to thirty years, and however, party politics and careerism usually trumps societal obligations.
Being pro women is not about the uncapped support of each and every woman in a position of power, we cannot role model ourselves around women that we have nothing in common with such as a Hilary Clinton (paternalistic, abrasive and divisive) just because she rose to powerful levels of public leadership does not mean she’s the template to a successful political career.
Contextualized leadership is necessary to prepare for the political nuances, the sexual innuendos, the thought process behind policy and how to table transformative policy, how to be agreeable without diminishing your cause as that is the duality of public leadership.
Sebabatso Santho

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